What is happening in Gaza right now is an exact deja vu of four years ago, albeit with stronger Palestinian rockets. Then, as now, the conflict was completely unbalanced, the rapidly growing civilian Palestinian death count evidence of that, should proof be needed.
In terms of the international reactions, this conflict also mirrors Operation Cast Lead. Responses from the Western powers have been non-committal, largely blaming Hamas for the outbreak of violence and giving Israel the green light to carry on with its policy of wanton destruction. The regional reaction, too, has been predictably passive, with words spoken, and visits undertaken, but little else besides condemnation for continued Israeli aggression.
Egypt, as the strongest country sharing a border with Israel, with a new leadership, might have been expected to take on a more vocal stance, but, despite the visit of Prime Minister Hashim Kandil to the Gaza Strip Friday, the reaction has borne little divergence from that of the country under Hosni Mubarak.
Allegedly allied with Hamas, Cairo’s new leaders are supposedly working as mediators on the crisis. Global powers are turning to Egypt, encouraging the new state to do all it can to usher in a cease-fire.
But nobody has yet spoken of the need to address the roots of the conflict. Talking Israel down from its gratuitously disproportionate response to Hamas rocket fire, which, in any case, followed weeks of incitement from Israel, is all very well, and needed urgently so that the people of Gaza can be allowed a degree of peace. But until the existential issues are addressed – the right to Palestinian statehood, the issues of land, refugees and water access, political prisoners, the Jerusalem question – outbursts of such senseless violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people will continue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has certainly picked his timing well for this latest Gaza offensive. Syria is distracted by its own civil war, Iraq is unstable, Jordan’s problems are worsening, Egypt is still in a transition phase and Lebanon is divided. The rest of the Arab world’s impotence in the face of Israeli aggression is similarly ensured by the chasm splitting its members into two ideologically opposed camps.
Ahead of an election he was more than likely to win anyway, Netanyahu is effectively neutralizing the opposition, as many Israeli leaders have done so before him, by stressing, without a hint of irony, the notion that Israel is in fact a country under attack, its people susceptible to indiscriminate attacks.
Simultaneously Israel’s military leaders are able to test the new aerial defense system and gauge the strengths and weaknesses of Gazan arms.
Despite a new Muslim Brotherhood presence in power across the region, the region is once again letting the Palestinian people down, with the Arab League proving itself to be as useless as ever. This rhetoric of responsibility to the Palestinians must become reality if their suffering is ever going to end.